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#HumpDayRPG Problem Players and Pathfinder (is it a cult?)

Note: Welcome to the first episode of HumpDay RPG a weekly slack chat between our two founders (and two employees) Travis and Gideon.

Travis
Hey Gideon, welcome to our first weekly not-at-all-stolen-from-FiveThirtyEight chat.

Gideon
Topic 1: what to do when you players hate each other 😛

Travis
Oh great topic, I was thinking of “Pathfinder is on Humble Bundle again” but since you bring it up, it’s pretty common to have some drama at a table. RPGs typically show a much less inhibited versions of our true selves (or allow us to play out other people who maybe those closest to us are not as comfortable with). How do you handle drama at the table?

Gideon
Well a little drama is definitely ok, a game where there’s no tension between the characters might not be the most interesting game you can play. The first thing I try to keep my eye on is if the tension between the characters is bleeding into tension between the players. The former is fine, the latter can be a bit of a problem.

The easiest way to do that is to call a break (a little while after any drama, no need to inturrupt a good scene) to grab drinks whatever and see if the players are laughing and enjoying reflecting on their characters actions e.g. “oh man, my Cleric is such a dick, but he really has to follow his scripture to the letter of the law – sorry!” a bad sign is players sniping at each other in real life comments etc. e.g. “why do you have to be such a dick?”

Travis
Do you think the DM has to step in at a certain point? Like you have a player (not character) who is openly hostile to the actions of another… do you just let it play out? Do you explain that it’s a good decision?

I guess, where do we as DMs have to position ourselves? I feel like this is something you and I are probably a bit different on. I would rather get mildly involved and take a side if to me the side is clear. If you are being a dick at my table, I am going to say “hey it’s his turn to do with as he wants, if you would like to protest in character, please do so when it’s your turn if you ever learn about it”.

Gideon
The way I DM I think it’s my job to make sure everyone at the table is having a fun/rewarding time, a part of that is definitely mediating dispute if necessary. I have a few rules at the table, one of which is everyone is allowed to play their character how they like, so if a player is criticizing character choice I’ll step in to defend that, if the player being criticized isn’t doing it for themselves.

It’s dangerous, I think, to “take a side” however because if you show favour to one player at a table that can set up an imbalance about how your players feel about you, which can be hard to shift.

I’ll generally step in though, if I think that there’s a shred of malice or mean intent at the table, intially playfully (I’ll have their character trigger a sleep trap or something to give them a time out, and they’ll usually go to the bathroom or whatever) but if they are a persistently being unkind or unfair I’ll talk to them after class 😛

Travis
Mute spell 😛

“oh what a terrible thing just happened, you and you triggered a mute spell you cannot talk for the next 10 real life minutes”

Gideon
lol yes perhaps, that can seem a little targeted, but could work well. My main objective is always “what will optimize for happiness at the table” not “what does this person deserve” so that includes not pissing off the person being a dick – who might just be having a crappy day

Travis
Yeah we frequently talk about the “rule of cool” as a sort of overarching rule of Dungeons and Dragons and I know that it’s one that you and I both adhere to… but I think the better rule would be the “rule of fun”

Which is basically the rule of cool but for more. Did we break the rules in how we defeated the dragon? Sure. Did we have fun? Yes, it was awesome.

Gideon
What would you do if you had a player who had no interest in completing the group objective, and you could see this was gradually frustrating the rest of the group? Eye rolls from everyone else while this one player clearly didn’t GAF?

Travis
I was reading an article about this on Reddit today. The guy was concerned because he likes to really draw out the role play and enjoy the game, while the others just want to hurry up and kill monsters. He asked if he was playing the game wrong because he was irritating his group.

Most of the people said “you are playing the same way we would like, but also you are not going to get the rest of the group to change to what you want they have their own type of game they want to play”

I feel like this might apply, he can make an appeal to them that it’s the type of game he wants to play and as long as he is comfortable playing the game their way for their stuff maybe they can be more tolerant of the way he plays his stuff

In the end, the single player will be the one who would need to leave the group if that was a problem.

Sometimes groups fail, sometimes parties split, and I think at a certain point we also have to accept that. I was having a conversation in one of the D&D slack groups (#DNDRPG) and Sean mentions that the DM stepping in to make things better might actually make the problem worse.

Without knowing a specific instance, this is a hard conversation to specifically talk about. However, his quote is:

> seanhagen
> exactly. D&D is wish fufilment, fantasy, fun times. Leave therapy to those who’ve got the training to do that. I see 1% chance this works out exactly as the DM wants, 99% chance this just makes things worse.

In reference to a DM trying to use a game to help solve people’s issues. He suggests sitting the two down, saying knock off your crap or we end the game.

Travis
@Gideon Basically have fun, if you are not having fun… stop playing. I want to know how you feel about pathfinder.

Gideon
I feel great about Pathfinder! It was my intro to being a GM and I loved the refinements it made to 3E, though I certainly appreciate the crunch makes GMing far harder

I came to the conclusion that a good PF game really relies on a GM who knows most of the rules inside out, otherwise things can grind to a halt. I learned to dread the words “I’m going to try and grapple it” … oh god… are you, let me get out the grappeling tome.

🙂 I prefer 5e, it feels like just the right amount of abstraction to maximize fun, but … PF has some advantages

Travis
Pathfinder society was my introduction to RPGs, other than the few games we had played at the time. I really loved it, but it was also… much?

Do we /need/ 50,000 different racial options?

Gideon
for one thing, it has a huge library of custom PCs that play with different abilities and allow a ton of flexibility in how to play

the down side of this … haha… yeah is that they may not all be well balanced and with such a myriad of options, it’s easy to powergame your way to absurdity

I have fond memories of my player, who was a pirate, using one of the swashbuckler varients – justified twin pistols as a magix artifact ina world with no firearms

funny thing about a world with no firearms… firearms are super powerful 😛 I nerfed them pretty hard, but she was still great

Travis
That’s it, in pathfinder there is a pirate class, and in UA (which I am excited is going to be in Xanthar’s Guide as official) in 5e there is a swashbuckler that is only a subclass of Rogue

(or rather an archetype)

Gideon
Yes, which I think works fine. Pirates are basically rogues after all 😉 I like how modular 5e feels, you can swap things out but it doesn’t become a whole new subclass

The magic is really the things that I think puts 5e above PF, it’s snappy and refined, but who knows how much of that is the feeling of the people I happen to have played with vs the actual mechanics of the game, I haven’t really analysed the two systems

Travis
Not everything needs to be a class either. If I wanted to be a pirate, I could easily just be a “pirate bard” and make “pirate” my background or anything else.

Or just say “oh btw, I’m a pirate”

Gideon
Exactly, I feel like things like “backgrounds” are a great things that players and GMs can play with together, fairly minor class adjusters that add a lot of colour and a few items and maybe a skill, so you can certainly have the “pirate” background and have fun writing it yourself

Also 5e Bard is awesome, and for that alone I love 5e, because all other bards essentially suck

Travis
What makes spellcasting better in 5e?
(#BardLife)

Gideon
They are pretty radically different systems, but an example, (and I worry that I will misremeber half of this) is that DCs of spells back in PF were dependedent on the level of the spell, now the spellcaster has a DC which is an property of the caster and their level, so you know how good oyu are at all magic. That kind of streamlining is indicative of the change between systems

Low level spells became useless as you levelled up, because their DC was so low but you were fighting more hardcore things, so your number of spells was pinched out to really only your higher level ones

In general magic is less powerful in 5e, but more balanced (a low level PF weizard was a bit puny and couldn’t do much, but a high level one was a god), in 5e they feel good across the board. Cantrips being at will and unlimted keep magic users in the game and having fun no matter what (there are cantrips for everyone that do a basic amount of damage, so you dont have to hoard all your attack spells until the next sleep) etc

Travis
Yeah, I will probably pick up pathfinder for the suggested $5 to get all the core books

they come in PDF, CBR, and other formats so that’s cool.

but I have really enjoyed 5e more, and when playing in groups I have also found Adventurers League to be a bit better than Pathfinder Society.

Also I am partially worried that Pathfinder Society is a cult..

Gideon
Oh it’s for sure a cult

😉 I stay away from cults, guilds, evern forums, they suck you in… before you know it you have side quests up the wazoo and half the people in town wont talk to you

Travis
Not only like a cult, but like… Scientology (there goes our big group of scientologists buying dice). They bring you in for the games but they also want you buying all their books and they have SO many books

SO many books

Gideon
so many.

I also think I’m with the great Gary Gygax (PBUH) on this one when he says: “T[Pathfinder] is too rule intensive. It’s relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. – Gary Gygax, GameSpy interview, Pt. 2 (16 August 2004)”

I enjoyed it, but 5e really feels like I’m crafting the world and situations every step in the way and I’m free to just play around in this sandbox, without having some rules lawyer say “erhem, I think you’ll find a wonderous acorn must be _on the ground or toucing the earth_ to activate, so your action is invalid” I mean of course I can always rule 0 him, but … 5e feels like it really emphasizes that GM is god, so if his wonderous acorns grow in the mouths of dragons, then so be it

Travis
Ha, I have been working on a system that simplifies the 5e rules into a new much lower barrier system. Let alone considering adding more rules and functions.

@Gideon OMG LIGHTNING ROUND

Gideon
!!

Travis
Yay or Nay on the pathfinder humble bundle?

Gideon
Yay

its a great system and $5 is a bargain

Travis
Paladin or Cleric

Gideon
Paladin

Travis
Best drink to play D&D with

Gideon
Full bottle of red wine

(Full at the start)

Travis
One sentence DM tip… go

Gideon
It’s not about beating your players, it’s about having fun losing to them.

Travis
Awesome. Thanks for our chat! Readers feel free to stop by next week, we may have a special guest whose name rhymes with Bin Weasle (XXX)… maybe… you will have to read next week.

Gideon
Woah – we might be haning out with … Gin… Skeezel?

Rad

Thanks Travis, see you next week readers